A Revival of American Diplomacy

On September 22, Donald Trump gave a speech to the United Nations General Assembly. Much of it involved self-congratulatory statements, with Trump heaping praise after praise onto his own efforts. However, the most telling message came at the final minute. Staring intently at the camera, Donald Trump claimed that he had “rejected the failed approaches of the past.” He was “proudly putting America first” and calling on other nations to put “their countries first” as well. A few hours later, French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the UN assembly soberly. He directed criticism straight towards Trump, asserting that “no doubt there will be a cure for the pandemic… but there will be no miracle cure for the destructuring of the modern order.” Poignantly, Macron urged his European allies to join Macron in taking proactive steps. If the United States cannot be called on to support its allies across the globe, then its allies must forge a path on their own. 


These developments have been long-standing in the Trump administration. Many articles have been written about Trump’s destruction of the liberal world order, and many others have explored the growing strength of populist, right-wing movements in the aftermath of Trump’s election. This trend is alarming. In the years since 2016, we have seen an uptick in authoritarianism. Countries that Trump claims friendship with have embraced radical policies that have disenfranchised millions. 


Trump has praised Turkish President Erdogan, calling him a “good person.” Turkey, meanwhile, has imprisoned thousands of individuals as political prisoners, including activists and journalists. Trump has defended North Korean President Kim Jong Un, claiming that "he's got a great personality. He's a funny guy, he's very smart, he's a great negotiator.” North Korea continues to move populations into forced labor camps, and crackdowns on civil liberties remain common. From Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, there is no shortage of evidence for Trump’s support of dictators, autocrats, and right-wing populists. 


Under Trump, the country has been at the heart of global crises. From escalation with North Korea in 2017 to the abandonment of the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2018, Trump’s actions on the world stage have lacked consistency, long term consideration, and care. While pandering to dictators and autocrats, Trump has also dismantled many of our closest relationships, insulting German Prime Minister Angela Merkel and United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May on separate occasions. This has forced many nations, as President Macron said, to consider a new world order without the United States. 


Joe Biden’s foreign policy is the complete opposite. His political career demonstrates his support for values utterly alien to Trump, such as the promotion of democracy and inclusive institutions. On July 23, 1986, Joe Biden gave us a direct look at his views on the world. There, he criticized the South African government and its promotion of Apartheid, calling it the “ugly, white regime.” He carried on, explaining that his support went fully to the marginalized members of South African society and criticizing then-Secretary of State, George Schultz, for “refusing to act on a morally abhorrent point.” He holds these values to this day. President Barack Obama selected Biden as his running mate because of his prowess in foreign affairs. Indeed, Joe Biden’s voting record shows how he has promoted liberal values throughout the world. 


The highest priority of his policy plan is restoring “dignified leadership at home and respected leadership on the world stage.” Key to this plan is the reversal of Trump’s isolationist and xenophobic policies. Joe Biden will end the discriminatory Muslim travel ban. Joe Biden wants to support political asylum seekers and refugees. Joe Biden wants to restore the State Department that has been gutted by the Trump administration. In every sense, Joe Biden wants to re-engage the United States with the rest of the world, bringing the country back into multilateral agreements like the Paris Agreement on climate change.


However, these are only parts of Joe Biden’s plans on the global stage. Trump’s policies have caused long-term damage to America’s reputation. Joe Biden recognizes this. At the DNC, Biden made himself clear, declaring that “the days of cozying up to dictators is over.” He has called out foreign adversaries, telling Putin that he was “on notice.” In every way, Joe Biden professes a foreign policy that will return America to its former trajectory, and from there, Joe Biden hopes to utilize American leadership to affect positive change. From issues like climate change, global poverty, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Joe Biden has shown us a long-term vision. Cooperation is the only path forward. When we work alone, we are doomed to fail.